Dear Reuel: What Is This ‘Sell 1 HDB Flat, Buy 2 Private Properties’ All About?

Dear Reuel, 

I have been seeing Facebook ads from property agents telling me that I can sell my HDB flat and with the sales proceeds – buy two private properties. A HDB flat for two condominiums? For real? How is that even possible? Is it a scam or some sales talk?

– Skeptical


Dear Skeptical,

You are right to be skeptical (like me). It’s this killer street-smart instinct that stops you from falling prey to ridiculous scams like the DHL episode, Nigerian prince inheritance bullocks and magic stone horsesh*t.

Here’s the true-true. It’s actually possible. But there’s a caveat though and for it to work, there must be some conditions to be met. In order to show you how it works, I am going to create a fictitious (but realistic) Singaporean homeowner profile.

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PHOTO: A 4-room Punggol flat sold by Reuelwrites

John and Mary’s Profile:

  • John and Mary are both 35 years old and make $6,000 and $3,500 respectively for the past 10 years.
  • They got married, successfully applied for their high-floor, 4-room, Punggol BTO HDB flat in 2008 and moved in upon its completion in 2011.
  • They took a 90% HDB loan for the $200k flat and have been paying $817 in monthly installments. They do not have any other debts and loans.
  • Because their monthly CPF contribution into their Ordinary Account is $1,840, they have more than enough to pay the monthly installment and put into their CPF OA.
  • John and Mary has accumulated around $220k and $120k in their CPF OA respectively.

Fortune smiles upon them and their flat has appreciated to $450k based on the most recent market transactions.

After staying in their HDB flat for six years;

  • They still have a loan balance of $146,800, with an assumed accrued CPF interest of $2,000.
  • If they sell their flat, they will have an extra $60,000 in combined CPF monies and accured interest credited back into their CPF OA.
  • After taking away all the deductibles, they will get to pocket a cool $232,700 in cash proceeds.
  • John and Mary will have $251k and $151k in CPF monies respectively.
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PHOTO: Sims Urban Oasis Showflat

 

How the ‘Sell 1 HDB flat, Buy 2 Private Properties’ Work:

John:

  • As the higher income earner, John buys a 3 bedroom condo in Punggol which costs around $1m, as a sole owner.
  • Based on his salary of $6,000, he can borrow a maximum bank loan of around $800k.
  • His monthly installment amounts to around $2.8k/month, which he can pay using his existing CPF monies for minimum 20 months (if John happens to go on a sabbatical or loses his job due to misfortune).
  • His monthly CPF contribution is $1,380, which means he needs to top up the difference of $1,420 in CPF (or cash).

Mary:

  • With a salary of $3,500, Mary can borrow a maximum bank loan of around $468k which she loans to purchase a 1 bedroom apartment in Aljunied at $550k, as a sole owner as well.
  • Her monthly installment amounts to around $1.7k/month, which she can pay using her existing CPF monies for minimum 33 months (if Mary happens to go on a sabbatical or loses her job due to misfortune).
  • Mary rents it out for $1.7k, thereafter having the tenant cover her monthly installments.
  • Mary can sell it four years later at $650k (based on an inflation of 4-5%/annum), thereafter pocketing another $120k in cash proceeds and rental income, which she can use to roll on another property.
  • Her monthly CPF contribution is $805, which means she needs to top up the difference of $895 in CPF (or cash).

Outcome:

  • Together, John and Mary are now cool owners of two private properties instead of one.
  • After paying the 5% option fee for both properties, they still have $155,200 from the sale of their HDB flat which they can use to renovate their new home and put into their children’s education fund.
  • They have also saved 7% Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duties since they each bought the properties under individual names.
  • They have upgraded to a private property where their entire family can enjoy a better quality of life while also growing their monies through another property investment at the same time.

Sounds good yea? This is granted homeowners such as yourself share the same or similar profile as the clients above. But alas, the world is not fair ya.

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PHOTO: Parc Life Executive Condominium Artist Impression

When Does It Not Work:

I have done plenty of presentations and financial calculations for clients. Here are some common reasons why the above method do not work all the time.

  1. Not all HDB flats can be sold with such high cash proceeds (some might even be a negative sale)
  2. Homeowners make the mistake of fully/partially paying the flat with their CPF monies early, resulting in high CPF accrued interests which diminishes the cash proceeds.
  3. Homeowners have been staying in the HDB flat for decades, resulting in super high CPF accrued interests payable back to their own CPF OA when they sell the flat.
  4. Homeowners’ salaries are insufficient to take loans to buy two separate properties.
  5. Loan is insufficient to finance 80% of the property as home buyers have many loans and debts which include but are not limited to credit card debts, car loans, renovation loans, etc.
  6. Banks are unwilling to loan home buyers as home buyers have a history of bad debts, resulting in a low credit score.
  7. Home buyers are self-employed and declared a low income (dum dum dum).
  8. Home buyers are conservative and fear having too much debts (loans) to pay – even if they have the ability to pay for them.

My Thoughts:

The ‘Sell 1 HDB flat, Buy 2 Private Properties’ can work. But for it to work, you will really need to have a sit-down sharing session with a good and capable real estate agent with a conscience (which I highly and shamelessly recommend myself for obvious reasons!) and share all information with him/her, including your debts (if any).

Overall, ‘Sell 1 HDB flat, Buy 2 Private Properties’ is good but it’s not for everyone. There is a Chinese saying that goes这么大的头就别戴这么大的帽子” (If you don’t have a big head, don’t wear a big hat). Don’t be greedy (or carried away to another planet by the property agent’s flowery words) and leverage beyond your means.

Even if you can’t buy two private properties, exchanging a used 99-year leasehold flat for a brand new condo (or even an Executive Condominium) with a fresh lease is pretty sweet too, isn’t it? RW

 

Editor’s note: Every week, Reuelwrites dishes out uncensored, practical advice to friends, family members or strangers regarding real estate. Got a question for Reuelwrites? Email it to eugenetayhy@gmail.com.

Consultation: There is no one-advice-fits-all solution. For more in-depth advice, contact Reuelwrites at eugenetayhy@gmail.com or call +65 9833-6450.

Disclaimer: While the author Reuelwrites is a certified real estate agent with Huttons Asia, the above thoughts represents his own and is in no way representative to that of Huttons Asia.

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Dear Reuel: I Would Like To Fully Pay My Flat With My CPF

Dear Reuel,

“My boyfriend and I are settling down soon and are thinking of applying for a $250k, 3 room BTO flat in Punggol. We are thinking of fully paying the flat with our CPF. What do you think?”

– Girlfriend


Dear Girlfriend,

First of all, congratulations! Oh wait, he hasn’t propose right? Anyways, why are you considering a 3 room flat instead of a 4 room flat? Because it’s cheaper? Please do your family planning before firming up your decision. Unless you are telling me that you heart dogs over babies, then I second your decision!

Next, you will be a fool if you fully pay your flat with your CPF, at your age. Since you are still young and probably won’t stay here forever (you know what I mean), there is a high possibility that you will get promoted and get better salaries, upgrade to a bigger house or better yet – move to a private property.

By dumping all your CPF monies into your flat, you are reducing your opportunity cost to nil. Assuming five years from now, you would like to buy a brand new EC like Rivercove Residences for example but because you are short of the same $250k which you put into your flat, now you are stuck with your 3 room flat. Not very smart, is it?

And worst of all, by the time you want to sell your flat to net a cool $150k cash proceeds, you would realise that your cash proceeds has been reduced by $50k due to the CPF accrued interest which you could have earned have you left them in your CPF account to generate free interest.

Of course there are some exceptions. If you draw a huge salary, and can afford to pay the option and down-payment for a private property regardless of the ABSD, you can keep your fully paid flat and buy a condo on top of your flat. By the way, I would like to be your friend (and maybe entice you with some properties I am promoting).

But if you don’t fall within the above category, do me a favour dear. Take a maximum bank loan (pay 5$ option in cash), and keep your CPF monies in the CPF Ordinary Account. Let them earn the 2.5% accrued interest, or invest them in some unit trust or whatever. Just don’t be silly to put all your CPF monies in your flat immediately. RW

Update: The above scenario is on the assumption that the buyer has the ability to fully pay the flat with their CPF monies or has accumulated more CPF monies through years of work while already owning a HDB flat. For buyers buying with HDB loan, they will have to use all their monies in their CPA OA to offset the purchase price before taking a HDB loan.

 

Editor’s note: Every week, Reuelwrites dishes out uncensored, practical advice to friends, family members or strangers regarding real estate. Got a question for Reuelwrites? Email it to eugenetayhy@gmail.com.

Consultation: There is no one-advice-fits-all solution. For more in-depth advice, contact Reuelwrites at eugenetayhy@gmail.com or call +65 9833-6450.

Disclaimer: While the author Reuelwrites is a certified real estate agent with Huttons Asia, the above thoughts represents his own and is in no way representative to that of Huttons Asia.

10 Things To Consider Before Buying Your First HDB Flat

Ready to make the first biggest purchase of your life? Consider the following points before buying your first home.

You just got married or achieved the 35-year-old milestone and it’s finally time to get your own abode, Yay! There’s this unspeakable sense of joy mixed in with apprehension venturing into this domain which was previously off-limits. Being a realtor myself, I have seen home buyers come and go, some having done ample research while others.. well clearly taking a leap into the unknown.

Here are some things to consider before paying that $1,000 option fee to buy your first home. Warning, long post ahead but hey, it’s your first home we are talking about here, so better to be more detailed yea?

1. Consider Your Financing

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PHOTO: sg.get.com

Before you go searching for your dream home, take stock of your current finances and how you intend to fund your property.

Top things to consider:

  • What is the maximum amount I can loan from HDB / Banks?
  • How much monies I have in my CPF Ordinary Account?
  • How much upfront cash do I have / want to put into my first property [excluding renovation fees]?
  • How much do I have to top up in cash every month if my monthly CPF contribution cannot cover the monthly installments?

Essentially, all you need in cash to buy a resale flat is $5,000 (or less) – provided you [are eligible to] take a 90% HDB loan and there is enough money in your CPF OA to pay the 10% downpayment as well as the 3% Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) Government tax.

The amount of cash you need for purchasing a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat is slightly different and the option fee can be reimbursed from your CPF OA if there is enough monies in your CPF OA to pay the downpayment and BSD inclusive of the option money. For more info, click here.

And it is best that you actually get your HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) or your bank loan approved before you start your house hunt to avoid wasting time.

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PHOTO: theindependent.sg

“If I don’t need so much upfront cash when taking a HDB loan, why should I consider a bank loan to begin with?” 

The #1 reason for taking a bank loan is simply because of their favourable interest rates. HDB loan while consistent, goes at a hefty 2.6% interest per annum whereas bank interest rates are significantly lower. As at 3 September 2017, floating interest rates can go as low as 1.28% (1st year) while fixed interest rates can go as low as 1.5% (1st year).

If you are someone who can manage your finances well, bank loan is up your alley. But do take note that you will have to engage a private lawyer instead of a HDB lawyer to do the conveyancing for you.

In spite of this, HDB loans are still popular because they allow for lesser upfront cash/CPF payments and they do not have any repayment penalties. If a homeowner has the financial ability to partially or fully pay their flat in cash/CPF, they can do so without any penalties. This may not be so for banks.

Another reason would also be that HDB – as a Statutory Board – won’t be so inhumane to kick the homeowner out of the house should they have any difficulty in future when paying the monthly installments. The bankers won’t be so kind!

Do also bear in mind that if you have a low credit score due to repayment issues in the past, it will affect your bank and HDB loan. 

There is no such thing as “HDB loan is better” or vice versa. It all depends on your needs really. Speak to your realtor should you have any questions.

2. Check Your Eligibility

Before taking the next step, be sure to check your eligibility. To buy a BTO or resale flat, you have to fall within any of HDB’s eligibility scheme.

Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) with a proper family nucleus who have obtained their SPR status for at least 3 years at the time of submitting the application can also buy HDB resale flats. However, they are not allowed to buy BTO flats.

3. BTO Or Resale Flat?

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PHOTO: todayonline.com

Much like buying a new launch condo unit, buying a BTO flat ensures that buyers (must form a family nucleus) buy their flat at the best price possibly. But let’s not forget that BTOs are getting expensive as well. Besides, [only] in Singapore, couples have to make a [difficult] decision of applying for their BTO flat – which takes 3 years to build – way before filing for a notice of marriage so that they can get their house on time just before or after the wedding. But ya’ know, life happens and breakups may occur as well.

The cancellation of a BTO flat application – depending on what stage of the buying you are at – can have dire consequences such as the forfeiture of the paid up money on the property as well as balloting chances for another BTO flat in the future. For more details, visit this detailed article by 99.co. BTO flat buyers may also be eligible for housing grants of up to $80,000.

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PHOTO: straitstimes.com

If you believe your relationship is fireproof, then go ahead and make the application. But lady luck may not smile on you since there can be as many as 8-10 applicant balloting for the same BTO and even Sale-of-Balance (SOB) flat.

Resale flats on other hand provide the opportunity for couples to upon marriage; choose their desired location without the hassle of balloting, move in immediately upon completion of transaction, and also enjoy up to $110,000 in grants (subject to eligibility).

For couples who don’t mind waiting for their home and enjoy a higher monthly combined income not exceeding $14,000, Executive Condominiums and maybe even private condominiums may be a better buy. More details in my next article.

4. Consider The Lease of Your Flat 

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PHOTO: propertyguru.com

One of the most important point to remember about HDB flats is that they have a running lease term – which at the end of the 99 years lease will be returned to the State. While location is important, buyers should also keep in mind that they don’t overpay for an ageing property as reminded by Minister Lawrence Wong.

Buying a flat with lesser years left on its lease can affect;

  • Your financing of the flat with HDB or Bank loan,
  • How much CPF you can use for your flat purchase and,
  • Your selling price when you want to sell your flat to upgrade.

For more information on how much CPF you can use for flats with less than 60 years lease, click here. For more information on how much HDB loan can be offered for flats with less than 60 years lease, click here.

As a rule of thumb for my clients below the age of 35, I would advise that they buy a newer flat completed not more than 10 years ago if possible. This is due to the fact that HDB flats depreciate when nearing 60 years in leftover lease and this can result in negative sale. More details in the next point.

5. Consider If You Intend To Stay Here Forever

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PHOTO: dollarsandsense.sg

“Woah, forever? Need to think so far meh?”

Forever seems too far-fetched but it will be something that you wish you considered when you realised the flat you bought ten years ago will be a negative sale (which requires you to pay the shortfall to HDB or the bank whom you loaned from). You need to plan for your tomorrow today, and I can’t emphasize that enough.

If you are in your 20s or 30s, there is a high chance that this flat won’t be your last home and you could possibly look to upgrade to a bigger house or a private property when you get promoted to a better job and earn better salaries later on in life. Hence, it is important to consider your exit plan (think of the future resale price) and come out with a 10-year game plan. Speak to your realtor to find out more.

This will be a non-issue for buyers buying BTO flats although they will have to sacrifice on the space and location since resale flats are usually in better locations closer to town, have many amenities and transportation routes, as well as bigger layouts.

6. Renovated Or Original Condition Flat?

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PHOTO: thesmartlocal.com

Okay, now that we are done with the financial stuff, let’s talk about something less boring! One of the most interesting part of house hunting is peering into someone else’s home. And that begs the question; To buy a renovated flat or not, that is the question.

For buyers looking to save a few bucks, a renovated unit would be ideal since renovation cost will be kept to a minimum. However, owners who put good money into the renovation of their homes may most likely expect to sell their flat at a price that is higher than the recent market transactions and valuation. That would also mean that there might be Cash Over Valuation (COV).

For example, an owner who spent $60,000 on renovations ten years ago may expect to pass the cost over to you by selling his property $60,000 above COV! While some may rationalise that it is essentially the same as buying an original condition flat and pumping $60k in renovations, but it’s not. Here’s why;

  • Even if the valuers were to take into account the exact renovation cost, all renovation has straight-line depreciation,
    • Many people including agents don’t know this, but there is actually a formula to calculate valuation of renovation after depreciation
    • A flat renovated 10 years ago or longer adds $0 into the valuation
  • Buyers can buy an original condition flat and take up a renovation loan, thus do not have to cough up so much upfront cash.
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PHOTO: renonation.sg

After transacting so many houses, one thing I observed was this, buyers who bought renovated flats still have to spend a small sum of money on minor renovations, toilet overhaul, carpentry works, or even hacking away passé/unwanted decor.

For buyers who choose an original condition flat over a renovated flat, you can save cost from hacking away unwanted decor while getting your interior designers to renovate the house based on the latest trends and all.

Hence, while viewing a beautiful renovated home may give you the good vibes, it might at times make more sense to buy an original condition flat and renovate it into the house of your dreams. With that said, you still got to do your budgeting for the renovations!

But again, different buyers have different needs. If the renovated flat with its gorgeous decor fits the home of your dreams, why not? Talk to your realtor about this.

7. Mature Or Non-Mature Estate?

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PHOTO: Iconic Dragon Playground in Toa Payoh | singaporeheritage.sg

Many of u like the idea of living in an exciting estate that has everything from supermarkets, to proximity to town, to movie theatres, to megamalls, and the list can go on and on. But what if staying in a happening location may set you back by more than double the price?

Last year, The Straits Times reported that a 5-room flat in Clementi was sold at a record-breaking $1.005m. That record has since been broken by another Clementi flat which was sold at $1.04m earlier in April this year. Since last year, many Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats in Bishan, Toa Payoh and Boon Keng have crossed the $1 million threshold.

While not all HDB flats in a mature estate will come with such an exorbitant (DBSS) price tag, expect to pay a premium for the location nevertheless. Here’s an example.

  • A high floor (above #12) 1,087 sqft 4-room flat in Block 155 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh (TOP 1999) was sold at $690,000 in August 2017.
  • Comparatively, a high floor (above #13) 980 sqft 4-room flat in Block 293 Punggol Central (TOP 2005) was sold at $408,000.
  • Both are within similar walking distance to the nearest MRT. One costs almost $300,000 more.
  • Based on the same perimeters of 80% HDB loan on a 25-year tenure, the Toa Payoh flat buyer have to pay around $2,505 in monthly installment while the Punggol flat buyer have to pay around $1,666.
  • The difference is almost $1,000, enough to pay the installment for a low maintenance vehicle.
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PHOTO: Punggol Waterway | sg.asia-city.com

To add on, properties in a non-mature estate also has the potential to appreciate in value as more developments and amenities are built over time. Some non-mature estates which will see lots of development in the future include the Northeast regionJurong district, Woodlands district. One way to find out the future developments in the area is to look it up on the URA Master Plan.

Past non-mature estates which are highly sought after today include Marine Parade and even super-popular towns like Tiong Bahru, Toa Payoh, Bishan and Bukit Timah which used to be the cemeteries.

Of course living in a non-mature estate does have its drawbacks such as limited convenience shops and coffee-shops for example. If that is something you can overlook, why not consider a flat in non-mature estates?

For buyers who have a higher combined monthly income, they can also consider Executive Condominiums instead of buying a HDB flat which will be addressed in my next article.

8. Check The Property Value

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PHOTO: homeanddecor.com.sg

Back to the point 5, some sellers are [just a little too] optimistic, hoping to sell their flats at a price that is a tad higher than recent transactions in the same block or area. Be sure to check the recent transactions in the block prior to making an offer. Also, a competent real estate agent would be able to help you negotiate down the price to avoid or minimise any COV.

If you are not in the property trade, you wouldn’t know that sometimes, there is a peculiar phenomenon where two flats in the same location with a road separating the two can have a different property value. One could just be a few metres closer to the MRT or have a better facing. If price is more important to you, choosing the cheaper alternative is a natural selection.

9. Ask The Right Questions

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PHOTO: channelnewsasia.com

One common mistake that most home hunters make is they do not ask the right questions. Questions such as “How high is the ceiling height?” are redundant when compared to other questions like “How many minutes’ bus ride to the nearest MRT?” Asking the right questions ensures you know exactly what you are signing up for and allows you to prepare in the event that something goes wrong in the deal. This becomes absolutely important if you see potential red flags such as freshly painted walls outside the flat, or a brownish ceiling in the toilet.

Some important questions include the following;

  • How long does it take to get to the nearest MRT via public transport?
  • Where is the nearest supermarket and coffee shops?
  • Where is the nearest childcare centre?
  • Who are the neighbours?
  • How long ago was the renovation?
  • Are there any leaking issues in the house?
  • Does the owner have any past history of moneylending?
  • Is the owner going through financial hardship? To name a few.

But if you have a responsible and competent realtor, just leave the asking to him/her.

10. Finding The Perfect House

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PHOTO: homeanddecor.com.sg

Have you ever tried looking for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and found it? It’s essentially the same as looking for the perfect house. The thing is, you will probably not be able to find a house with the best facing, ideal floor level, bright and breezy, good condition, desired amenities, angelic neighbours, and finally fall within your acceptable pricing.

If you are, unfortunately I have to inform you as a realtor that you are setting yourself for disappointment. There is bound to be something in the house which may be a [minor] issue to you. Instead of telling yourself that this house has to meet your every criteria, look instead to identify your wants vs your needs, and the dealbreakers ie. things that you confirm plus chop cannot accept.

For example, high floor is a need, while high floor and can see fireworks is a want. Another example, you cannot accept that your house is facing the main road but if the unit faces a small road is something you can consider, then strike the main road facing units out of your selection but allow yourself to consider units facing the small road.

With that, I hope that the above article has equipped you with the knowledge on searching for your first home! RW

Like what you see?

Share this article with your friends! The above article represents the writer’s honest opinion and does not reflect the sentiments of any company and Government organisation. Need advice on finding your home or are looking to engage the author? You can reach the author at 9833-6450 or eugenetayhy@gmail.com. The author is an experienced, licensed real estate salesperson with Huttons Asia.

While efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information and data stated above, any use of the above information and data should be used at viewers’ discretion.

Jaw Surgery: The Aftermath

Two years on, Reuelwrites tells it all on the aftermath of the jaw surgery.

Hey all! It’s been a little under two years since I went for the jaw surgery with NUH. Back then I wrote multiple articles on jaw surgery and never would have thought that it would help so many Singaporeans who were in a fix on whether to proceed with the jaw surgery, on the procedures to go about doing so, as well as what to expect during and after the jaw surgery.

You can read the articles by clicking on these links:

  1. Everything You Need To Know About Going For a Jaw Surgery in Singapore
  2. Surviving Jaw Surgery – Week 1
  3. A Jaw-Dropping Experience – Week 2

Two years went by just like that. Even till this day, I have so many enquiries on [going through] the jaw surgery. So here’s my report card on the recovery and aftermath. I have permanent partial numbness on the right side of my lower lip. Yes, permanent numbness is real. Going for the multiple follow-ups for months after the surgery, I was told by my surgeon that the initial numbness was ‘normal’. It came to a point where the numbness continued to be present despite being more than a year after surgery. That was when my surgeon told me that I belong to one of the rare uncommon cases where the patient never recovers from the numbness.

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Taken in 2013: This was my perpetual default face during photo taking because I always worry over presenting an ugly smile

“Does [the permanent numbness] bother me?” No, if I don’t think about it. In spite of that, the numbness does not really deter me from life as per normal.

“Is there any extra procedure during post-surgery?” Yes, I am supposed to wear my retainers all the time for at least two years from surgery to keep my teeth aligned. But being in the sales trade (real estate), I couldn’t afford talking weird so I only wore my retainers every night before I turn in. This step is very important if you don’t want to go back to your orthodontist to put on braces again in a couple of years’ time.

“Permanent numbness?! Reuelwrites, tell me.. Is it still worth it?” Well, to be honest, the numbness is annoying when I am fixated on it. If I can give an example, it’s like a big booger in your nose; it’s there but you won’t ‘feel’ it unless you focus on it (LOL). But this, in exchange for a nice smile, I find the trade-offs still worthwhile on a whole.

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Taken in 2017 after my braces were removed. Same cap, same face, but smaller ‘face’ and nicer smile, I think?!

Having a nice smile helps in my own self-esteem and being in the real estate industry where a nice smile can make a difference, I would say that I would have gone ahead with the surgery even if I knew that the numbness would be permanent right from the start.

So, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, “What if I never recover from the numbness, am I able to accept the permanent condition? Does the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?” If yes, then I would say “Go ahead with the surgery!” If that bothers you, you might want to hit the brakes on proceeding with the jaw surgery.

The above are just my experience going through jaw surgery and yours may differ from mine. However, if you have any other questions, feel free to email me at reueleugenetay@gmail.com and I will answer you to the best of my ability and knowledge.

Is It Necessary To Send Your Kid To A ‘Branded’ Primary School?

Is it really necessary? Why not a neighbourhood primary school?

I was having a conversation with my colleague the other day and found out that she rented a unit in The Minton despite owning a property in the West. Perplexed, I asked more questions and that was when I discovered that she made the move so she could stay within 1km to Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (PLMGS) and get her daughters into the school. For those who don’t know, PLMGS is one of the more popular primary schools in Singapore, taking the 31st spot in the 2016 Primary School Ranking list.

She went on to tell me that she came from a neighbourhood school. During her time there, she ‘had the time of her life’ with her friends and acing her studies wasn’t her top priority. Fortunately for her, she did relatively well in life; achieving fairly okay grades for her studies later on, landed a good job and started her family. But many of her friends were not that fortunate. And that was the driving force behind her determination not to let her children go through a similar route.

My colleague joined the assembly of parents past and present who will do whatever it takes to send their kids to a ‘good’ primary school. But what makes a primary school ‘good’?

What makes a primary school ‘good’?

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PHOTO: The Straits Times

Further segregated into ‘branded’, ‘top’ and ‘elite’, sending one’s kids to a good primary school ranks high in priority for many parents for the longest time. The common traits that these primary schools share include:

Perhaps the most important trait is still the belief that sending one’s kids to these primary schools increases their chance of scoring well at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) – which in turn guarantees they have a ‘headstart in life’. There has been rumours that top school Nanyang Primary School produced 47% graduates who scored above T-score of 250. Nanyang Primary School also produced the top student with a T-score of 283.

For more information on the primary school phases and procedures, click here.

Every School, A Good School?

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Perhaps the Government is trying to back-paddle on their previous stance and deal with this growing elitism issue. The slogan first mentioned by PM Lee in his National Day Rally speech in 2010 and popularised by then-education minister Heng Swee Keat at an MOE seminar in 2011, the Government sought to bridge the divide between the supposed-good primary school and a neighbourhood primary school. Putting their hand where their mouth is, the Government has made adjustments to the handling of PSLE with the most recent move to replace revealing T-scores in favour of 8 scoring bands instead.

I asked my colleague, “Do you agree with the Government’s statement?” She replied in a heartbeat, “No, of course not.” Well, good is relative. Good can mean a school’s ability to educate a child, to get them curious with acquiring knowledge, or to inculcate good values in them? Perhaps her – and many other parents’ – definition of good is the school’s ability to help their child get good grades for the much-needed boost in hyper-competitive Singapore.

I do agree with the Government’s statement that every school is a good school with qualified teachers and a sound curriculum. However, I would say that not every school presents the same opportunities to a child.  Statistics and probability don’t lie.

The brutal truth the Government won’t admit at this juncture is this, a kid who goes to a branded or top primary school is going to find himself placed in an environment with more opportunities to do academically well and to make better informed decisions than a said kid who enrolls in a neighbourhood primary school. Notice I did not say that a kid who goes to a neighbourhood school cannot do well, but the odds do not favour him as much as it does for the kid who goes to a branded school.

Are Grades And Going To A Top School Everything Then?

Image result for primary school singapore

PHOTO: The Straits Times

I thought it more as a propaganda move but a 2015 article published by The Straits Times described how many parents are choosing neighbourhood schools for their kids instead of branded ones. Sending one’s kid to a top school may increase the odds of one’s kid doing better later on in life, it also comes with its challenges.

Studying in a top primary school can be extremely stressful, do we want to subject our children to such stress at a young age? With the Government’s push for more well-rounded students (who are also expected to do well in CCAs) as opposed to students who just excel academically, the demand on a student’s time and cognition could be amplified. It may also require parents to uproot themselves and plan ahead since they have to stay at the registered address within 1-2km to the choice school for 30 months.

At the same time, perhaps something needs to be done with the labelling of primary schools. While we can’t make every school equal because it just isn’t going to work, we can stop calling normal primary schools ‘neighbourhood’ primary schools. It carries negative connotations?

I was with a friend with a family of five at The Criterion EC showflat and another client at Kingsford Waterbay showflat just last Sunday, and witnessed how both parents with no relation with each other are unanimously determined to upgrade to provide a better lifestyle for their children. In the end, everything that parents do, they do it so that their kids can be happy. Some parents decided that the only way for their kiddos to be happy is to make sure they do well in life. Some parents just want their kids… to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with both schools of thought.

The Pursuit Of Happiness

Image result for pursuit of happiness

But if it was up to me, I would say it isn’t absolutely necessary to send my child to a branded primary school. I rather my child be happy above everything else. But that’s just my opinion.

The Government has made many active steps to highlight their stance – that every school is a good school – but parents just aren’t buying it. And they won’t, neither will their obsession with branded schools and grades let up.. Unless we see our Ministers’ children start attending neighbourhood schools, all the measures to bridge the divide would be for naught.

When the Ministers does do so, perhaps then we can send a clear signal that the hallmarks of a successful child is not just in getting into good schools to get good grades; but one who is morally upright, socially responsible, has a thirst for knowledge for knowledge’s sake and most importantly, one who is happy.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that it is necessary to send your child to a branded primary school? Why or why not? RW

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Share this article with your friends! The above article represents the writer’s honest opinion and does not reflect the sentiments of any Government organisation and bodies. Need advice on finding a property near primary schools? You can reach me at 9-833-6450 or eugenetayhy@gmail.com. The author is a licensed real estate salesperson with Propnex.

Afterthought – 再辛苦也值得

Afterthought.

Showflat visiting last Sunday with clients and their kiddos. I’m touched by their intention to upgrade to provide a better lifestyle and ultimately to leave behind something of value to their children.

In the end, even if parents have to work harder, the joy of seeing their children enjoy the fruits of their labour is priceless and it makes their hard work all worth it. 再辛苦也值得。RW